tv Donald Ritchie on the 1966 Vietnam Hearings General Maxwell Taylor CSPAN February 15, 2016 9:49am-10:00am EST
i know this is a very difficult thing to deal with and we would have it probably impossible to deal with. >> do you think that russian flag would be lowered to that blockade? >> i don't know. i doubt it. >> if we sank the first russian ship and it wasn't lowered to that blockade, do you think they would send us a valentine in february or send us a bomb? >> i would suppose they'd be inclined to bomb. >> i'd much prefer a valentine. >> yes, i think so. >> we'll be back. >> yes.
don richie, you brought ari book with you called "vietnam hearings." what was this book? >> this book was printed in 1966. it's 50 years old. it was a book i used when i was teaching a course on american history in the 1960s. i was at the university of maryland and we used this book because it was exsermts of hearings that senator fulbright convened on the vietnam war in 1966 and it was the proponents, the supporters of the war, people like dean dusk and general maxwell taylor aopponens of the war like general james gavin. and they were being interrogated
by senators who were on both sides of the war. it was one of the first really usable books that came out that wasn't enormously partisan one way or the other way about the war. that's why the hearings were so important because they did present both sides of the issues, and it enabled the american people to hear from people who thought that the war was a great idea to people who thought that the war was a terrible idea, for people who thought the war could be won, to people who thought there was no way the war could be one. for people who thought it was a communist conspiracy to take south vietnam to people thinking it was a lelk -- legitimate war in south vietnam. these hearings in january and february of 1966 were
essentially the first congressional debate over whether or not we should be in vietnam p.m. >> in a few minutes we'll hear the testimony of general maxwell taylor. what was the situation at that time in vietnam? how many troops were there? and who was general maxwell taylor. >> by january of 1966 there were perhaps 125,000 american troops in vietnam. not as many as there would be by 1968 but far more than there had been a year earlier, when we had had a year earlier there were approximately 30,000 troops. before that there had been about 16,000 advisors. so it was a gradual increase. president johnson did not want to appear he was sending large number so he sent troops in small segments announcing 50,000 troops here or 75,000 troops there always with the idea this would be enough, this is the
cap. always the military on the ground needed more and johnson would have to send more troops. general taylor was very much in american vietnam policy from the beginning. president kennedy had sent taylor to vietnam in 1961 to look at the situation. taylor had said it was a dire situation that he didn't believe the south vietnamese government could defend itself, americans would have to get involved. he saw americans sending more naval support own more air support. general taylor did not, however, as an army general did not believe that u.s. combat troops should ever be sent to vietnam. he was totally opposed to that. general taylor became u.s. ambassador to vietnam in 1964. the previous ambassador, henry cabot lodge had come home. so general taylor was there. he sent regular telegames to the state department, the president
saying it would be a big mistake to send ground troops. when president johnson decided to do that, it went against the recommendation of general taylor. general taylor was a loyal soldier and he supports in his testimony, he supports what johnson administration is doing, he gives some rationales for it. he tells what the vietnamese were doing, what the vietnam cong doing. a moral situation. not giving a realistic perspective on twar. but we now know because his telegrams are public record and his telephone conversations with the president are public record we know he had great reservations about sending ground troops and he believed the united states should draw the line and only send naval support and air support.
>> who were some of the other senators. >> senator john sparkman of alabama. you have george mcgovern, up and coming congressman, senator from south dakota. you have wayne morris, one of the two votes against going, against the resolution. then the republican from iowa who was a supporter on the war. you had the whole range of people who support the administration, people who oppose the administration. people who are willing to go with the president, truth the president to give the president a bipartisan foreign policy, people who feel the president has led the country off a side of a cliff, this has bean disaster, he should never have done this, congress should never
have given up their right to declare war. you have those senators asking questions. witnesses are being grilled by both signs. wayne morris who is a lawyer, law school dean, ferocious interroga interrogator. >> is there any way to know at this time what the american public in general thought about the war? >> the gallup polls and other polls were following what public opinion was. and president johnson felt pretty convinced that the american public was with him. when he started sending troops in, he had, you know, about 60 home ru60%, 65%. he won the presidency by 60% vote. everybody came on board in his case. but because he won the presidency promising not to get
involved in the war, not to send troops in. while it's true that the public opinion showed that they did not want south vietnam to fall to communism the public was much more am big arguous. they didn't want to send their sons to fight in vietnam. there was no great desire to have another korean war fought in vietnam. so while there was support for the principle that america needed to stand up for noncommunino noncommunist countries and countries we needed to fight there was a sense why are we the only ones fighting why isn't the rest of the world involved. why do we have to pay for this all the time. president johnson, by not calling up the reserves, had to double the draft. and suddenly that meant that people my age at the time, people in their 20s were vulnerable to the draft. there were lots of deferments available. if you were in college you were
deferred. which meant if you weren't a college student, a high school student or dropout you could get drafted. and eventually it got harder and harder to evade the draft. people were leaving the country, photo country, going to sweden to evade the draft. the draft radicalized and politicized a generation that came of age in the 1960s, the 20s. it made this big issue which was a proliferal issue. there were a lots of studies how public opinion which johnson thought was solidly in his corner split very much and split by 1968 to the point where johnson felt he could not run for re-election. >> so we're just about to see general maxwell taylor, how was he received by the committee? >> the committee respected general taylor greatly.
general taylor had a lot of gravitas. they gave him a lot of lee way. there was a great deal of respect for anybody in the military uniform. and even if they disagreed with them. but, agai but, agai but, general taylor brought a view to this war. the generation before, world war ii, they saw this as a continuation. in fact, the administration kept talking about munich and kept talking about all these things that were world war ii analogies, trying to make vietnam into sort of a mini second world war essentially and that was an appealing argument to a large part of the united states who had fought in the